The normally clear waters of the Umzimkulu River are muddied from the recent heavy rains in Kwa-Zulu Natal and now cut a jarring swathe against the rich green of the fields and trees; a dirty brown snake stretching the full width of my field of vision as I begin the descent of Hella Hella Pass.
Although heavily used by local farmers, the pass remains one of the lesser known in the country and, while not really a challenge to the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport Exceed I am driving, does have its moments in wet weather when the clay surface becomes rather slick.
Rather, this is the drive you do when it is time to relax and recharge; to take in the true beauty of this country we call ours.
The latest update of the Mitsubishi Pajero makes this even easier and more pleasurable, keeping passengers snugly cossetted within the leather seats, the air-conditioning keeping the KZN heat and humidity at bay and the 2,4-litre turbo-diesel engine hardly raising a sweat.
The revised Pajero Sport is most noticeable due to the Dynamic Shield front grille, giving the upgraded version an enhanced, more stylish and modern look.
Although most of the changes are in the form of style and more luxury equipment as part of the standard package, Mitsubishi’s engineers persisted with the ever reliable and powerful 2,4-litre MIVEC turbo-diesel.
All models are powered by this intercooled turbo-diesel offering 133 kW and 430 Nm of torque driving the wheels through Mitsubishi’s 8-speed automatic transmission. The pairing between engine and the automatic transmission’s wide range of gear ratios provides smooth acceleration and low rpm high-speed cruising that enhances driving efficiency.
The new derivative in the range, the Pajero Sport Exceed, offers all the built-in safety features inherent of the Mitsubishi brand, and like the standard 4×4 version, is paired with Mitsubishi’s Super Select 4WD-II system, which delivers performance in the most challenging driving conditions and rugged terrain.
The selectable Off-Road Modes maximises traction on and across various surfaces. The Gravel, Mud/Snow, Sand or Rock setting can be selected to suit surface conditions to optimise engine output, transmission settings and braking for superior traction control.
Adding to the new frontal design, standard design features of the updated range include Mitsubishi’s RISE (Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution) body construction.
To help keep occupants safe, the Pajero Sport has a variety of passive safety features such as its seven crash bags and ISOFIX child seat anchors.
Active safety features found in all models include active stability and traction control (ASTC), anti-lock braking system, electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), and an emergency brake assist system (BAS).
All models also boast a hill-start assist system (HAS), dusk-sensing headlights, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, rear park distance control and a rear-view camera for safer and easier parking.
On the inside, there is tilt and telescopic adjustment for the steering column with a multi-function leather-clad steering wheel with audio and cruise control settings.
The new range offers Bluetooth with hands-free voice control, coupled to Mitsubishi’s advanced smartphone-link display audio (SDA) connected to a large 8-inch touch screen.
Life is made easier for the driver thanks to a new full-colour digital instrument display, automatic dual-zone air-conditioning throughout the 7-seater cabin, including rear passenger controls and power windows all round.
All models now have additional USB and additional accessory sockets (dual USB for the rear passengers) and a 220AC 150-Watt power plug with full leather throughout the interior.
The new Exceed gains a ower Tilt and Sliding Sunroof, Mitsubishi Remote Control Connectivity and and Electronic Tailgate with Dual Kick Sensors,
Improvements have also been done to the cabin, offering a soft, luxurious feel, more leg room and elbow space.
The Dynamic Shield design includes LED headlamps, daytime running lights and fog lamps finished off with high quality chrome Dynamic Shield and now also fitted with cornering lamps.
Looking at the New Pajero Sport from the side, its silhouette shows the new 18-inch alloy wheel designs and repositioned side steps set perfectly to enhance the design, while the higher nose has raised the centre of gravity, offering improved ride quality and off-road ability.
From the rear, the improved design combines the thicker bumper with a rear diffuser to highlight the Pajero Sport’s stable stance on the road.
The Pajero Sport has a 30-degree approach angle, which allows adventurers to challenge tough obstacles head-on, while the 24-degree departure angle will get you back down safely.
In the course of our travels, we also took in Qunu Falls, another little known scenic gem hidden deep inside the forests of bluegum trees where yellow metal monsters seemingly borrowed from a sci-fi movie gather, stack and load wood destined for sawmills and other uses.
Part of the route involved a longish stretch where the drainage had failed and the rain water had turned the surface to slush. A quick flick of the dial into four-wheel drive, a press of the button to turn off traction control and the Pajero slithered its way through so easily Mrs W (who is quite a nervous passenger) did not even look up from whatever had her attention on her cell phone.
Fuel consumption obviously varies wildly depending on the terrain but the combination of highway, rural and gravel roads for the entire trip returned an average of 9,7 l/100 km.
The Exceed has a keener price positioning than other luxury 7-seater models and achieves this without losing any of the necessities. However, it is sometimes the small things that become noticeable – the fact the front power windows are not one-touch and the headlights are not auto-dimming are two I felt should be part of what is a very comprehensive package.
A big plus is the fact the rear row of seats folds completely flat rather than folding to the side or having to be removed in order to increase the luggage area.
As a tourer it is extremely practical and very capable in any kind of road situation and, while I did not do any donga-diving, would be quite comfortable in its ability to shimmy up and over just about anything.
The Mitsubishi Pajero Sport has a 3-year/100 000 km manufacturer’s warranty and a 5-year/90 000 km service plan with 10 000 km service intervals.